When their season ended in late January, Deebo Samuel was the 49ers’ indispensable man, the guy who lifted them at wide receiver early in the season, who buoyed them at running back when injuries ravaged that position and who was the pulse of the team in its run to the NFC Championship Game.
Three months later, he wants out.
On Wednesday, Samuel confirmed to ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington what had been bubbling on social media in recent weeks — that contract negotiations with the 49ers had deteriorated to the point where Samuel wants to play elsewhere in 2022.
Tough negotiations are nothing new to the 49ers, who have worked out position-leading deals with fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner and left tackle Trent Williams in recent years.
Kittle’s and Warner’s deals came down to the wire, with both players signing just before training camp. Kittle’s agent told NFL.com that the 49ers’ initial offer, on Feb. 14, 2020, was so disappointing that he started calling it “The Valentine’s Day Massacre.” Kittle, however, never commented publicly and took part in the 49ers’ offseason program, which was held over Zoom that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Samuel and his group haven’t been nearly as circumspect.
After negotiations got underway, he scrubbed references of the 49ers from his social media accounts, his older brother, Tyquan, wrote this week that Deebo “won’t be a 49er” in 2022 and Samuel did not show up for the start of the 49ers’ offseason program, which is voluntary.
So how did things deteriorate so quickly?
First, it’s important to note that Samuel’s fiery and stubborn demeanor is what fueled him on his amazing 2021 run. It’s the reason his namesake is a bully from the movie “Friday.” The 49ers are now experiencing, in contract talks, what opponents dealt with last season.